NEW YORK — Kellwood Co. officials were in a partying mood Wednesday night to celebrate the launch of the company’s newest collections, Liz Claiborne Dresses and Liz Claiborne Suits.

The collections are licensed to Kellwood’s Halmode division. Both lines, which opened Monday, are housed in a spacious new showroom at 1400 Broadway here, where the company entertained retailers and industry executives with a cocktail party and informal modeling. The event took place on the eve of the auction to buy Kasper A.S.L., which pitted Kellwood against Jones Apparel Group.

Retailers from Macy’s East, Rich’s, Stage Stores, Proffitt’s and Elder-Beerman were among those who viewed the collection and mingled in the showroom.

Hal Upbin, chairman and chief executive officer of Kellwood Co.; Stephen Ruzow, president of women’s wear at Kellwood; Jay Diamond, president of Halmode, and Denise Miller, president of Liz Claiborne Dresses and Suits, held court, greeting executives such as Paul Charron, chairman and ceo of Liz Claiborne; Barbara Friedman, president of Liz Claiborne Licensing, and Abbey Doneger, president of the Doneger Group.

“I think this is great,” said Charron, who got a private viewing of the line from Ruzow. “I don’t think we could be with a better partner. They know what they’re doing.”

While Liz Claiborne Suits is a brand new category, Liz Claiborne Dresses was previously licensed to the Leslie Fay Co. Before that, the dress business was done by Claiborne in-house and in its heyday in the early Nineties generated close to $200 million in wholesale volume, said Bob Negron, group president, licensing, cosmetics, outlet and special sales at Claiborne.

Market sources estimate the two Claiborne lines at Halmode will generate in excess of $50 million in wholesale volume in the first year.

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